Over the past month, the White House has variously insisted that Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky felt no pressure to investigate Donald Trump’s political rivals during the phone conversation between the two leaders on July 25.
Trump even managed to compel Zelensky to say as much publicly when the two met at the UN in September, although Zelensky’s demeanor and body language told a different story.
On Monday, that defense took a hit from an AP sources story which says US officials in Kyiv were informed as early as May that Zelensky was actively looking for advice on how to navigate what he perceived to be a vexing situation with potentially explosive political ramifications for the US.
“He was concerned President Donald Trump and associates were pressing him to take action that could affect the 2020 US presidential race”, two sources said. AP adds that State department officials both in Ukraine and in Washington were briefed no fewer than three times on Zelensky’s concerns.
There are written records of this, the sources said. Apparently, a series of notes documenting Zelensky’s worries were circulating at State. Presumably those are still around somewhere.
If this is true, it undercuts yet another GOP talking point. “Both presidents expressly have stated there was no pressure, no demand, no conditions, no blackmail, no corruption”, John Ratcliffe (who was briefly considered to replace Dan Coats over the summer) argued during public testimony from Bill Taylor and George Kent last week.
That talking point was also included in the 18-page memo circulated to Republicans by GOP committee members earlier this month.
Every witness in the impeachment inquiry has, in one way or another, validated the whistle-blower complaint. There is no ambiguity about whether the irregular policy channel presided over by Gordon Sondland and the shadow campaign run by Rudy Giuliani were aimed at cajoling Ukraine to open investigations into Joe Biden and Democrats.
As AP writes on Monday, “the US briefings and contemporaneous notes on Zelensky’s early anxiety about Trump’s interest in an investigation suggest that Democrats have evidence in reach to contradict Republican arguments that Zelensky’s never felt pressure”.
Expect this to be one of the next shoes to drop.